Open vs Closed Fishing Reel

Open vs Closed Fishing Reel: Differences

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When it comes to fishing, for your best chances of success, you want to use the gear that works best for you. Yes, there are lots of different options to go with in terms of fishing gear. There are many different kinds of rods, lures, lines, and so forth and so on. Yes, there are also many different kinds of fishing reels.

You have got your spincast reels, spinning reels, baitcast reels, surf reels, trolling reels, and a few others too. We are here to talk about fishing reels, but what we want to discuss is the difference between open and closed fishing reels.

These can also be known as open faced and closed faced fishing reels.

Let’s find out what each is about and what the major differences with open vs closed fishing reels.

Open Reel

If you get an open reel, you are getting one that is open on the side, thus leaving the spool and line partially exposed. There is a bail made out of wire, one that surrounds the line, and it is used for distance casting.

These usually come with a handle that features a locking mechanism in order to prevent it from spinning backwards and letting line off the spool in the event that a fish is pulling in the opposite direction.

Here, the reel is mounted below the rod, and you need to use your finger to guide the line while casting.

Closed Reel

With a closed reel, you are usually looking at something fairly inexpensive. A good example of a closed reel is a spincasting reel.

These feature an enclosed metal cup with a single hole in it so the line can pass through. Here the spool and line are not exposed. Here the reel is mounted above the handle.

These closed reels feature a button that you need to press in order to release the fishing line when you cast. Here you do not have a bail to control the line.

All of your casting technique comes from snapping the rod quickly combined with a well-timed release of the line, using that button.

Open vs Closed Fishing Reels

Ok, so let’s just quickly talk about the major differences between the open faced fishing reel and the closed face fishing reel.


Generally speaking, due to having less components, and also being a little less versatile in terms of use, closed face reels are often much cheaper to purchase.

Yes, you can buy more expensive closed reels, but they will usually always be comparably cheaper than open faced models.


Open faced reels tend to be harder to cast that closed face reels. Closed reels simply require you to go through the motion of casting, and then press the release button to let the line go.

It’s pretty simple. On the other hand, open reels are a bit trickier to use. For one, you have to open the bail before you cast, but you also have to use some more technique when casting.

With an open reel, you need to use your thumb to guide the line out.

Casting Distance & Accuracy

Ease of use aside, with an open faced reel, you usually get a lot more distance and accuracy out of your cast.

Although harder to use than closed faced reels, you do get more control over distance and accuracy.

Therefore, open faced reels are better for more advanced fisherman.


Open faced reels can suffer from backlash, which is when the line bunches up and tangles in the air. This often happens if the lure you are using is not heavy enough, or if you are casting into the wind.

You can suffer from a bird’s nest on the spool, or the line wrapping around the tip of the rod. It takes good control to ensure that this does not happen.

While this usually won’t happen with a closed faced reel, they do suffer from another problem. Because you can’t really see what is going inside of the reel, they tend to knot and tangle within the spool’s housing.

However, this kind of problem happens much less often than with open faced reels.


Open faced reels are usually more versatile in terms of the type of line they can handle, as well as the quantity.

Simply put, open faced reels have more room, so they can hold more line. They can also handle heavier line than closed faced reels.

Closed reels only have a very limited amount of room on the inside to hold line, plus they usually cannot deal with heavy line too well.


When all is said and done, both open and closed fishing reels have their advantages and their drawbacks. If you are a beginner, a child, or just have never fished before, you probably want to start out with a closed reel model. They might not be that strong or offer much control over casting, nor can they hold much line, but they are easier to use. Open faced reels, while being harder to use, can hold more line and offer better control over casting, making them better for more experienced anglers to use.